Positive Behavior at HMS

Student behavior in schools has long been a discussed topic among educators, community leaders, and learning advocates.  As generational culture has shifted, stances toward behavior have shifted as well.  Rather than punitive measures, which have proven to be ineffective in the long run, schools have begun to focus on rewarding positive behavior from students.  

Haywood Middle School (HMS) is a leading school in implementing the positive behavior program known as RTI Squared B.  RTI Squared B stands for Response to Instruction and Intervention for Behavior.  RTI Squared seeks to not only improve student behavior, but do so in a way that combines high-quality instruction and real-time teaching that models and rewards appropriate behavior.  

HMS Principal Michelle Tillman and Assistant Principal Tim Seymour have seen a noticeable difference in school wide behavior since RTI Squared was implemented.  

“Instead of punishing behavior, we reteach the expectation.  We try to model.  When a kid messes up, we address what they did wrong and then teach them the proper behavior,” Tim said  “There are eventual consequences, but that’s not our starting point.”

Along with The Leader in Me Program that is woven into the culture at HMS, RTI Squared adds to what was already in place with the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens.

“We connect this modeling to the Seven Habits which is a part of The Leader in Me program,” Michelle explained.  

RTI Squared is not only part of student growth, at HMS it has also worked well with teachers.

“RTI gives our teachers opportunities to teach behavior as well.  We have several steps that teachers have to follow before a student referral is sent to the office.  There are steps in place for teachers and students to resolve issues before a student is sent to the office for a major infraction,” Tim said.  “It also opens up communication between parents and teachers.  One of the big issues in the past would be parents not hearing anything until the student ends up in the office, and that’s not productive.”

Along with fostering communication between parents and teachers, RTI Squared also seeks to reward positive behavior that students exhibit.  One way the school does this is by building in graduated reward systems that give students opportunities to be rewarded for positive behavior.

“We have purple tickets every Friday.  During the week, students are given purple tickets by teachers for good behavior and the students drop those in a bucket and names are drawn on Fridays.  We give them candy and take a picture.  Every nine weeks, we do a big positive behavior celebration.  The first nine weeks, we had ‘lunch on the lawn’ and kids ate outside, played kickball, threw frisbee.  They just really enjoyed that time,” Michelle explained.  “This Friday, we’re having a DJ in the gym and kids will be able to hang out and listen to music.  It’s their time to relax and enjoy themselves.  If the students have two minor behavior slips, however, they won’t be able to attend.  For our last celebration, they can only have one minor infraction.  We try to improve behavior throughout the year.”

RTI Squared has also allowed teachers to take on more responsibility in leadership as well as open the door for more collaboration centered on behavioral expectations across the school.  HMS was also recognized as a reward school for implementing RTI Squared in an effective manner.

“We wanted to give more ownership to teachers in the discipline process,” Michelle said.  “We’ve been recognized as a bronze level school with RTI Squared B two years in a row!  We have an RTI Squared team that’s made up of teachers that the administrative team meets with on a regular basis.  It helps check the pulse of the school on a behavior level.  It’s just a way to collaborate with teachers.”

In the end, the main thrust of RTI Squared B is to improve student behavior across the school as a whole.  Research has shown that behavior deficits can and do correlate with academic deficits, however the implementation of RTI in HMS has shown positive benefits.

“Because of Covid-19, this is our first FULL year with RTI Squared.  We’ve really seen a decrease in office referrals compared to my first year here,”  Michelle said.